JuJu Smith-Schuster may not be playing tonight, but that doesn’t mean that plenty of Pittsburgh Steelers fans aren’t talking about him. And while it may remain a minority, a lot of those doing to talking about him have not been happy. Ruled out for the fourth consecutive game with a knee injury, the 23-year old has quickly begun to rub some people the wrong way.
That’s the only reason for it. About the only thing he’s done for which he deserves criticism is for posting a social media video of himself speeding—and of course for the act of speeding itself, not to mention recording while speeding.
That’s grossly irresponsible. Having a life and generating some income while injured is far from it. Until now, the vast majority of people—many of those now taking shots at him—loved his openness and the fact that he was a big kid having fun.
Now that he’s injured, and the fact that he hasn’t had a big season, people are tired of seeing it, and even making the case, with no evidence to back it up, that he is putting himself and his brand before his job, and not putting in the work to get better at his craft or to facilitate his rehabilitation.
None of this is anything that fans can have access to. But we saw him catching hundreds of passes every day on the JUGs machine at Latrobe. We’ve seen how he works. There’s no reason to doubt his work ethic just because he’s a 23-year old who plays video games and goes to parties and posts about those activities on social media.
Smith-Schuster wasn’t with the team a week ago when they were out west playing the Arizona Cardinals. It’s not uncommon for players who are rehabbing injuries not to fly with teams over long distances. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t make the trip against the Los Angeles Chargers. He got grief for that, too.
Whenever the topic is broached, I see a lot of people saying that they haven’t seen this or that it’s not prevalent. Yet in the same posts and Tweets, there are a number of people saying the exact things others are saying are not being said. It’s happening enough that it’s worth talking addressing.
The notion that Smith-Schuster is slacking in his duties as a professional athlete, either in terms of the work or the rehabilitation, are completely unfounded, and the fact that he is doing other things—including charitable work—in the meantime, in no way constitutes evidence to the contrary.
On the flipside, we have his teammates talking to reporters about how he is constantly in their ear giving them advice and helping them to grow. That strikes me as more plausible than the alternative. Until we actually hear something substantial that contradicts this, I’m not going to work under the assumption that Smith-Schuster is in any way an issue, aside from the current state of his knee.